“Mistress America” – a film review by Gary Chew
I couldn’t help thinking about a 1964 Peter Sellers movie directed by George Roy Hill as I watched Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s latest movie called Mistress America. The Sellers film was The World of Henry Orient. Of course, Sellers gave us his magnificent best in the title role.
Both movies are concerned with the foibles of young females … Orient looked into the antics of a pair of 14-year-old girls in New York City, one of whom has a crush on a world famous concert artist. On the other hand, Mistress shadows two attractive twentysomethings in the Big Apple confronting issues more mature, but not by much.
Brooke (Gerwig) and Tracy (Lola Kirke) are just meeting for the first time in Times Square since Brooke’s Dad and Tracy’s Mom have decided to get married. Oh gee, stepsisters at such an “advanced” age.
Tracy is new on scene, entering university life. She’s an aspiring writer and hopes to gain membership in the prestigious Mobius Society. Brooke has less artistic goals. Her big dream is to own an ultimately hip restaurant that really cool New Yorkers will always come back to as their special home base for fine food and conviviality. Brooke will call her establishment Mom’s.
Stavros — Brooke’s aspiring-to-great-wealth boyfriend — is currently in Greece. She’s banking on him for staking her to get the restaurant project underway But gulp, he stiffs Brooke for the seed money. That Stavros is in Greece could explain why those bucks aren’t at hand.
Gerwig’s character is the high charged half of the Brooke/Tracy duo. Ms. Kirke was also seen in Gone Girl. I often say, when I see someone who gets a part really right and has plenty of charisma to go with the acting chops, “You’re gonna see her or him in movies again and again.” I’m saying that right now about Lola Kirke after seeing her do a much larger part in Mistress America.
Tracy is the subtle person of the pair: somewhat retiring and not high up on anyone’s social list. Yes, Brooke can be overwhelming for Tracy. Gerwig keeps herself in fifth gear for every scene, but it all looks so easy and natural for the Sacramento native.
The scene changes quickly when Brooke and Tracy get out of town for a meet up with a former main squeeze of Brooke’s who does have mucho dinero. Maybe Dylan (Michel Chernus) will come through for Brooke with the bucks for getting Mom’s on the map. He lives in luxury with his wife (Heather Lind), who intensely dislikes Brooke due to Brooke and Dylan’s previous up-hooking.
It here’s in Dylan’s digs that Mistress America presents almost as a stage play with a zany mix of newly added characters, all seemingly to have just come from an audition for another Woody Allen movie. They and the earlier on characters make Mistress America even funnier. The later moments are quite uproarious and comically choreographed, showing Gerwig and friends not missing a beat or cue.
Will Brooke open that Mom’s Restaurant, and does Tracy become more popular and gain membership in the venerable Mobius Society? And how can all that be tied up in a neat sort of reflexive manner?
Gerwig and Baumbach, her real life main squeeze, might have their best so far with Mistress America, although Francis Ha and Greenberg had lots to offer those who enjoy laughing at rather smart people making silly mistakes living their lives while giving great effort to growing up … some more.